18 Oct 2013
Microsoft's Windows 8.1 update is finally available to install for those already running Windows 8 on their tablet or PC, and judging by the length of time it takes to download, there is quite a high demand for the new version.
The first thing to note about the Windows 8.1 release is that there are no real surprises, as Microsoft has been talking about the changes to the user interface and the new features coming for some time now.
We looked over the Windows 8.1 Preview release back in June, and as far as we can tell, not much appears to have changed since then. This does not mean that users of Windows 8 won't notice anything different, as there are a slew of user interface tweaks and other enhancements that Microsoft has added since the original release last year.
As we wrote back in June, the main changes users will notice are that you can now customise the Start screen, that you can resize tiles, and you can opt to boot straight to the old-school Desktop environment.
The Bing app has now disappeared, with its search function subsumed into the search Charm accessible from the Charm bar you bring up with a swipe form the right side of the screen.
Meanwhile, Windows 8.1 makes greater use of Microsoft's SkyDrive service to ensure that user data and settings are consistent whichever device you log into, while all files can now be saved directly to a user's SkyDrive account, a feature that was introduced in Office 2013.
Some things that are new in the Windows 8.1 release include a new Help + Tips app to introduce users to what's new in this version of Windows, plus large animated on-screen hints that appear when you first use Windows to inform users about things like the Charms and that you need to swipe in from the edges of the screen to access options in the new-style user interface.
The Mail application has also been given a makeover that makes it look much slicker and adds some capabilities more in line with Microsoft's Outlook app than the rather austere app that users of Windows 8 will be familiar with.
Meanwhile, Skype is now supplied as part of Windows 8.1, but it does not seem to appear on the main Start screen by default. Instead, users must access it from the Apps screen, which is now found by swiping up from Start, and pin it to the Start screen afterwards.
One word of caution for those upgrading: Microsoft warns users to back up their data before downloading and installing Windows 8.1, and with good reason. We found that the installation lost key configuration settings on our test tablet such as the localisation, and time and date, and we also had to reconfigure devices such as the Bluetooth keyboard afterwards.
More seriously, Windows 8.1 lost all the apps we had installed on the tablet, many of which had been there through several upgrade cycles since before the first release of Windows 8 itself. However, this could be because we were running the Windows 8.1 Preview build, rather than a release version of Windows.
For most users, upgrading should be as simple as opening the Windows Store app and being presented with Windows 8.1 as an available update to download.
Our initial impression of Windows 8.1 is that it is a slicker, more user-friendly version of the platform that Microsoft launched last year. However, as we noted in our earlier look at the Preview build, it does not really fix the sad fact that it is the Metro user interface itself that puts off many buyers.
Check back on V3 later for a full review of Windows 8.1.
Apple's AirDrop for iOS 7 is the answer to the cries of millions of users who want a better way of sharing their photos, videos and links than bluetooth, email or SMS.
Before we go any further, we must mention that this feature only works with the iPhone 5, 5C or 5S, the iPad 4 or Mini, and the iPod Touch 5th generation, all running iOS 7. This means there's currently no way of using AirDrop with an iPhone 4S or 4, or older iPads and iPods.
With that aside, using AirDrop in iOS 7 is pretty simple once you know what you're doing. First, you'll want to enable AirDrop. To do so, simply swipe up from the bottom of your iPhone's screen, with your finger starting from just below the bottom of the screen.
Then, select the AirDrop button. A list of three choices will appear: "Everyone" (Every iPhone in the vicinity will be able to see yours) , "Contacts Only" (Only contacts with Apple IDs will be able to see your iPhone) or "off". If your iPhone's WiFi isn't already turned on, selecting Everyone or Contacts only will switch it on as AirDrop works via a direct WiFi connection between phones.
Next, you need something to share. You can share photos, links, or anything upon which the little share icon appears (below).
With that in mind, select the share button by tapping on it. A list of sharing options will appear - chief of which is the AirDrop option, which appears at the top. If you can't see a device listed to send something to, make sure that your contact's AirDrop is turned on, visible to everybody (or contacts) and also ensure the device's screen is turned on and unlocked.
All being well, you will now see a circle with the name of your desired recipient underneath. Tap it, and you're done. If you're receiving, simply press "accept" and the file will be sent.
And that's it - you've sent a file via AirDrop. For other handy iOS 7 features, take a look at our hints and tips video guide.
15 Oct 2013
Apple's latest iOS 7 mobile operating system for iPhones and iPads introduced a raft of changes to its user interface for the first time in five years, causing plenty of confusion among users who were accustomed to iOS 6 and below.
One complaint users have had is closing apps via the multi-tasking menu. In previous versions a simple double click of the home button would do the trick, revealing a list of apps with a little red close button on each one.
In iOS 7, things are slightly different but not a lot more complicated. In order to close an app to save your RAM and battery usage – another common complaint with iOS 7 – simply follow these steps:
If you want to go one step further and completely remove an app you don't like or that's hogging your RAM and battery life, nothing has changed. Simply touch and hold an app icon, then tap the little X that appears in the top left-hand corner. Press the home button when you've finished deleting apps.
Bear in mind that you won't be able to uninstall any of Apple's default apps such as Notes, Calendar and Stocks – if you don't want them you'll have to move them to another screen or put them in a folder to keep them out of sight.
Check out our iOS 7 tips and tricks video for more hints on how to get the most out of your Apple device.
09 Oct 2013
Google's been enjoying a boom in Android sales for the last year or so, at least in smartphones. However, this success hasn't been replicated so far with Google's other mobile platform, the Chrome OS aimed at low-end laptop-style devices.
For this reason, Google seems to be stepping up its strategy of working with key hardware partners, resulting in devices like the newly unveiled HP-built Chromebook 11.
Design and build
HP and Google have both made a big deal about the Chromebook 11's build quality - one Google spokesman went so far as to describe the device as the "Wolverine of Chromebooks". On paper there's certainly a lot of merit to these claims, with the system boasting a metallic reinforced magnesium frame despite its low weight of 1.04kg.
Google claims the 297x192x17.6mm reinforced chassis is capable of taking more than the average wear and tear and should be able to survive the odd accidental bump or drop hassle free. While we didn't get a chance to actually drop test the Chromebook 11 during our hands-on, we were very impressed how robust the device felt.
Despite the slightly cheap feeling shiny plastic finish, the chassis has little give to it and feels much better built than any laptop we've experienced in the same £229 price-bracket.
During our hands-on we were also impressed how comfortable the keyboard was to type on. While, like any laptop in the same 11in size bracket, the keyboard did feel slightly squashed, the keys were suitable snappy and responsive and the Chromebook's slightly rounded frame made it comfortable to type on.
In terms of ports, the Chromebook 11 is sparsely equipped, featuring just two USB 2.0 ports and a SlimPort video output, which uses a microUSB style connector.
The Chromebook 11 comes with an 11.6in in-plane switching (IPS) display boasting a 300-nit brightness and 176-degree viewing angle. Using the Chromebook 11 in regular office lighting conditions we were fairly impressed with this screen. While far from the crispest we've ever used, the display was bright and colours looked rich and vibrant.
It also proved to have fairly decent viewing angles, with the display remaining legible even when viewing at an awkward angle. However, usersmay struggle to read itin in more adverse lighting conditions, like direct sunlight out of doors.
Software and performance
The Chromebook 11 comes with the latest version of Google's Chrome OS preinstalled. Whether this is a positive or negative is largely determined by which desktop and mobile ecosystem you're already accustomed to.
For those familiar with it, Chrome OS has a lot of benefits. Being largely cloud based, Chrome OS offers decent performance even on modest hardware. It does this by offloading a lot of the heavy lifting, traditionally tasked to the device's processor, into the cloud. This lets it do things like instant start and run demanding game applications traditionally beyond its Exynos 5250 processor and 2GB of RAM.
The OS also features built-in multiple security layers designed to ward off malware. This, combined with its low market share which makes it an unpopular target with cyber criminals, means the Chromebook 11 is on a paper a very secure choice for businesses.
Chrome OS also makes setting up the device a doddle for people with a Google account, as it can transfer and setting up all their apps, shortcuts, calendar and email services with one simple login. Even better, the latest version of Chrome OS goes beyond the traditional set of online-only services, featuring support for a number of applications that can run offline, including Google Docs and Gmail.
However, to those more accustomed to Apple or Microsoft platforms, the OS can seem fairly constricting. Considering how embedded most businesses are in the Windows or Mac ecosystems and services, this could be a massive sticking point for many buyers.
Storage and battery
Storage-wise the Chromebook 11 comes with a modest 16GB of solid state storage built in, which cannot be upgraded. Luckily, for those with an active internet connection Google's bundled the Chromebook 11 with 100GB of Drive cloud storage free for the first two years after purchase.
The Chromebook 11 is quoted as capable of six hours active use off one charge. We didn't get a chance to test the projected life during our hands on but will be sure to test it properly come our full review.
One plus point we did notice is that the Chromebook 11 charges using a generic microUSB cable, not a bespoke input. While this sounds small it does make the Chromebook 11 far more travel friendly, removing the need for you to pack an extra charger when away on a business trip.
Our initial impressions of the HP Chromebook 11 are positive. The Chromebook 11 appears to be a robustly built, yet lightweight and travel friendly netbook replacement.
Our only real concerns regard the nature of Chrome OS itself. Despite having a significantly better offline app offering than previous Chromebooks, a lack of inbuilt storage could still prove a problem for those regularly out of range of a network connection and the central focus on Google products and services will remain an issue for businesses already invested in alternative ecosystems.
The Chromebook is available in the US now and is confirmed to launch on Amazon, Google Play, HP Shopping, Currys and PC World on 21 October. Check back with V3 later for a full review of the Google Chromebook 11.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
Dell launched a new line of tablets this week, and V3 was on the spot to get a hands on with the latest offerings which boast both consumer appeal and business punch: the Dell Venue 8 Pro and its bigger 11 Pro brother, both based on the upcoming Windows 8.1 release from Microsoft.
The Dell Venue 8 Pro is the first 8in Windows tablet produced by Dell, as it looks to reaffirm itself in the tablet market after earlier efforts that failed to gain traction. The 10.8in Venue 11 Pro, meanwhile, is a device that has as much potential as it has optional extras, which makes it a firm contender to beat the Surface Pro 2.
The devices announced yesterday certainly have plenty of business acumen with device management tools and Intel vPro featuring heavily, but the Venue 8 Pro will also be a pretty attractive offering to consumers too, with a sub-$300 price tag in the US. There's no UK price for the Venue 8 Pro yet, but the Venue 11 Pro starts from £349 (+VAT).
Design and build
The Venue 8 Pro can be held comfortably both horizontally or vertically. Its plastic back features a circular pattern, as seen with older Dell devices, which certainly doesn't feel cheap. It's just 9mm thick and weighs 394g, which is definitely light enough to chuck into your bag without much thought.
The Venue 11 Pro is a solid device, at over 10mm thick, but it isn't particularly heavy either, coming in at 712g.
It's interesting to note that the Windows button – seemingly mandatory for all devices running Windows 8 – is found on the side of the 8 Pro rather than on the front. Initially it might be a bit of a surprise for seasoned tablet users, but it should be a benefit in the long term as we found that our fingers tend to rest on the edges of the device rather than near a front-facing home button.
The Venue 8 Pro's in-plane switching (IPS) touchscreen comes in at 1280x800 pixels, which is a little disappointing for a tablet of this size, although it does at least beat the iPad Mini's 1024x768 display. Viewing angles are good and it's certainly bright enough; the vibrant Windows 8.1 Start screen looked good. But web pages were not at all as crisp as we would have liked, with some images displaying strangely off colours and low resolution in Internet Explorer 11.
Furthermore, we don't particularly fancy playing around in desktop mode on this machine; fiddly is the only word we can use to describe the experience. It's nice to know it's there if you need it, however.
The Venue 11 Pro touts a full HD 1920x1080 IPS screen, which is a good – if not groundbreaking – specification for a tablet of this size. Dell boasts near-180 degree viewing angles, and we can't really find ourselves disagreeing: it looks good from most reasonable vantage points.
Operating system and software
As previously mentioned, both tablets come with Windows 8.1 pre-installed, with Dell abandoning the ARM-based Windows RT in favour of the full-blooded Pro version of the OS. Furthermore, they also come with Dell's own device management software in addition to the optional inclusion of trusted platform module (TPM) security chips. This will be a boon for IT managers looking for secure devices to roll out to workers.
For consumers buying the tablets from retailers, they come with Office Home & Student free, but this offer does not apply to business buyers.
Other than that, there's little to report in terms of bloatware, at least in the pre-production devices we got our hands on.
The Venue 8 Pro comes with Intel's latest quad-core Bay Trail Atom processors, and in our short time with the device it was genuinely a joy to use. We couldn't go beyond loading a few image-heavy webpages and floating around a few of the pre-installed Windows apps so we can hardly call our tests conclusive, but we're optimistic that the Venue 8 Pro will tackle most everyday tasks with ease.
The 11 Pro meanwhile comes with a range of processors, meaning it's ultra-customisable for a variety of users. Pentium, Bay Trail Atom and Haswell i3 and i5 chips all make an appearance and, coupled with a maximum of 8GB RAM, 256GB of solid-state storage and a USB 3.0 port, at maximum specifications this device should be a real powerhouse. We look forward to putting it through its paces when it comes to market in early November.
Both devices come with high-speed packet access (HSPA+) connectivity when on the move, but 4G LTE is a notable absence.
We should also mention the cameras here: the pair of 5MP snappers wouldn't seem to be much to write home about. Front-facing lenses also make an appearance for family chats or video conferencing.
Dell claims both devices will last around 10 hours, which is certainly good enough. The Venue 11 Pro has another ace up its sleeve, with its removable plastic back revealing the power-user's holy grail: an interchangeable battery. This is a great feature which has made an appearance in previous Dell tablets, but its presence is still one that could prove to be a tremendous selling point.
Both devices feature an optional stylus, although neither has anywhere to stow them as far as we can see. The Venue 8 Pro will eventually be compatible with some form of attachable keyboard, although there's currently no sign of it.
In contrast, the 11 Pro comes with a raft of add-ons, including two keyboards and a dock. We were able to have a look at all three of these during our time with the slate, and for the most part they seem like essential buys if you're looking to be remotely productive on the move and in the workplace.
There's the simple keyboard cover, which is a very thin case that doubles up as a typing device. The keys feature very slight movement, which means you do get some tactile feedback while typing. The other keyboard cover features a battery that Dell claims can boost the battery life of the device by up to 80 percent.
Both keypads clip to the 11 Pro using magnets like the Microsoft Surface, and while we wouldn't risk dangling them above a wooden floor, they felt secure enough.
The aforementioned dock features a couple of USB 3.0 ports and support for two external monitors. This means, when attached, you can have a triple-monitor setup with your 11 Pro, which should be very welcome for power users who like to work on the move but also value a proper desk setup when in the office. This again rivals the Surface Pro 2, which also now comes with its own docking station.
It could have been the fact we were using a pre-production model, but the dock did not feel like quite the perfect fit for the tablet. We hope this will be fixed come launch day.
There's no UK price for any of the add-ons yet, unfortunately, but the docking station will retail in the US for $99 (£61).
These new devices have a lot of potential. If Dell can market them to consumers as well as they have tailored them to business users, this could be the start of Dell's revival in the client device market.
27 Sep 2013
The Z30's announcement was delivered with possibly the worst possible timing, being unveiled mere days before news broke that BlackBerry was to be bought by Fairfax Financial Holdings.
While BlackBerry maintains it will continue releasing new smartphones, at least until the end of 2014, the news has sparked rumours within the industry that the Z30 could be the last ever BB10 smartphone. This fact alone is adequate reason for IT managers to be wary of rolling out the device to their employees, which is slightly sad as having had a brief hands-on with the Z30, our first impressions of it are quite positive.
Design and build
Visually the Z30 is very different to BlackBerry's first BB10 smartphone, the Z10. The Z30 has more rounded edges than the slightly boxy Z10 and features a much more robust textured removable backplate that wraps around, rather than simply clipping onto the device's sides. It also features a metal-coloured lining around its sides and bottom edge. This makes the Z30 look a little like a cross between a Samsung Galaxy S4 and Motorola Razr HD.
The Z30 is also noticeably bigger and heavier than its predecessor, measuring in at 141x 72x9.4 mm and weighing 170g compared with 130x66x9mm and 137g for the Z10. As a result, while the Z30 is similar in size to most current top-end Android handsets, it's significantly heavier. This meant we initially found the Z30 slightly unwieldy, but we did get used to the extra weight after a short while using the phone.
Aside from its weight, we were impressed with the Z30's sturdy feel. Where the Z10 felt a tad flimsy and its backplate had an annoying tendency to pop off, the Z30 feels tough as nails. This is because the backplate is significantly thicker and much more solidly attached to the phone – to the point we actually struggled to pull it off and get access to the SIM and micro SD slots.
The Z30 comes equipped with a sizable 5in Super Amoled capacitive touchscreen, boasting 16 million colours with resolution of 720x1280 pixels at 294ppi. This means despite being in the same £600-plus price bracket as top-end Android or Apple smartphones, it is outclassed by the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple iPhone 5S, which feature 5in full HD super Amoled 1920x1080, 441ppi and 4in Retina 1136x640, 326ppi displays respectively.
However, while not nearly as crisp as the S4 we had in our pocket, the Z30's screen was still more than decent. Icons appeared crisp, colours remained vibrant and brightness levels were consistently good on the Z30. It was only when we started trying to read small text on webpages or view the screen at an angle that we noticed a serious disparity in performance.
The Z30 comes with BlackBerry's latest BB10.2 operating system preinstalled. The OS update adds a host of new features to BlackBerry's already impressive business-focused productivity and security offerings, notably the BlackBerry Priority Hub and BBM Now.
BlackBerry Priority Hub builds adds a "learning" algorithm to the message collation service's core features. The algorithm is designed to let the phone learn what conversations and what people you deal with the most and organise your inbox and notifications accordingly.
BBM Now pushes a preview of any incoming message to the top of the user interface (UI) as it arrives. This means you can dismiss or reply to any BBM message without having to exit the app you're in. We haven't had a chance to test either of the new services during our hands on, but we'll be sure to do so in our full review.
The Z30 is powered by a dual-core 1.7 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro and boasts a solid 2GB of RAM. There aren't really any great benchmarking tools on BB10 so we didn't have a chance to see how well the phone's parts are optimised, but using the Z30 for basic tasks we found it is fairly nippy. The Z30 switched between menus hassle free, responded to commands instantly, and opened applications and web pages in seconds. We didn't notice any serious performance issues during our quick hands on.
The Z30 boasts an 8MP, 3264x2448 rear camera and 2MP front camera. Briefly testing the rear camera, we found that while it does not seem to be on a par with top end camera-phones such as the Lumia 1020, or Sony Xperia Z1, the Z30 was capable of taking fairly decent photos in regular light. We didn't get to test the camera in more adverse lighting conditions, including low light, meaning we can't accurately say whether it's an improvement on the similarly specified snapper seen on the Z10.
Battery and storage
The BlackBerry Z30 comes with 16GB of in-built storage, though on our review unit only 10.7GB was actually usable. Luckily the storage space can be upgraded via the phone's micro SD slot.
The Z10's battery life was a key issue, with the first BB10 smartphone sometimes struggling to last more than four hours with heavy use. So BlackBerry has equipped the Z30 with a 2,880mAh lithium ion battery it claims will last "more than a day" with regular use. We'll test this out properly in our full review.
Putting aside the behind-the-scenes storm clouds brewing in BlackBerry's offices, our opening impressions of the Z30 are positive. While the Z30 doesn't feel as streamlined as many more consumer-focused phones such as the iPhone 5S or Galaxy S4, it feels robustly built and offers a host of improved specifications when compared with its predecessor, the Z10.
However, with BlackBerry's long-term future still in question and many businesses yet to upgrade their systems to BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10 (BES10) we're still not sure if these tech upgrades will be enough to persuade business users to shell out £600 for the handset, and we will need more time with the device before offering our final ruling.
Check back with V3 later this month for a full review of the BlackBerry Z30.
By V3's Alastair Stevenson
24 Sep 2013
Microsoft has unveiled its second generation Surface tablets that are due to go on sale on October 22 just days after the updated Windows 8.1 operating system is released to general availability.
Most buyer interest in Microsoft's devices has centred on the Surface Pro, which is able to run existing Windows applications as well as the newer Metro-style Windows Store apps, and so we've drawn up a quick list of the key features of the Surface Pro 2, and some of the differences between it the original model.
Tempted customers can pre-order the Surface Pro 2 from Microsoft's Surface website, with prices starting from £719.
The original Surface is powered by a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 chip, and this has been upgraded in the Surface Pro 2 with a 4th generation Core i5 processor, which Intel launched earlier this summer.
This latest family of Intel chips, previously codenamed Haswell, offers increased performance, especially in the area of its integrated graphics, but its chief advantage is greater power efficiency when compares with the previous generation. This should translate into longer battery life, and Microsoft in fact claims that the Surface Pro 2 lasts up to 75 percent longer than its predecessor.
Meanwhile, Intel's 4th generation chips have several different levels of graphics capabilities. The new high-end Iris graphics, for example, is claimed to offer performance comparable to some discrete adapters from Nvidia.
The exact chip in the Surface Pro 2 is a 1.6 GHz Intel Core i5-4200U, which can run at up to 2.6GHz with Intel's Turbo Boost technology, and which includes Intel HD Graphics 4400. This is a step up from the basic HD graphics in the previous generation, but not as impressive as Microsoft's claims about the new device might lead you to believe.
The display on the Surface Pro 2 is the same in terms of specifications as that of the original Surface, offering a full HD resolution of 1920x1080 pixels in a 10.6in, 16:9 ratio (widescreen) format.
As with the original Surface Pro, the display of the new model supports 10-point multitouch input, and it comes with a digitiser pen included for handwriting and other input using the screen.
Memory and storage
While the original Surface shipped with 4GB of memory and a choice of 64GB or 128GB flash solid state drive (SSD) in the UK, the options are more diverse with the Surface Pro 2.
You can still opt for a Surface Pro 2 with 4GB of memory, combined with either 64GB or 128GB SSDs, but there is a beefier tier now available, combining 8GB of memory with either 256GB or 512GB of storage instead.
This is not the first time that Microsoft has offered more than the standard storage; when the Surface went on sale in Japan earlier this year, it was available in 128GB and 256GB versions, as well as including Microsoft's Office suite in the price.
A notable feature of Microsoft's Surface tablet devices is the kick stand, which flips out at the rear to hold the system at a convenient angle for viewing when standing on a desk or other available surface.
This also works if you are sitting using the device on your lap, but the angle of the kick stand on the original Surface Pro was not quite right for this configuration. In the Surface Pro 2 this has been fixed with a dual-stage kickstand that can be set at two different angles, one for use on a desk and another when resting on your lap.
One of the things lacking in the original Surface was an easy way to connect up to desktop peripherals, which is a key requirement if you are a business professional using the device as your chief computing client.
Microsoft has addressed this with a Docking Station that lets you slot in and connect your Surface Pro 2. As well as charging the tablet, it offers an Ethernet connection to a LAN, three USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort video out and audio in and out.
Even better, the Docking Station can be used with the old Surface Pro as well as the Surface Pro 2.
New keyboard Covers
The Touch Cover and Type Cover where essential accessories for anyone wanting to use the first generation Surface devices for heavy text entry, and Microsoft has now introduced thinner and lighter Touch Cover 2 and Type Cover 2 versions. Like the originals, these snap into place for use, and can be folded over the screen to protect it in transit.
Meanwhile, a new Power Cover offers the same typing experience of the Type Cover, but also includes batteries to extend the usable life of your Surface 2, Surface Pro and Surface Pro 2 by up to 50 percent.
Finally, the Surface Pro 2 will ship just after the availability of Microsoft's updated Windows 8.1 operating system and will ship with the improved platform installed.
Windows 8.1 delivers a broad range of enhancements and improvements, the most significant of which are changes to the user interface based on user feedback that make it more customisable and intuitive, plus an updated IE11 browser.
The new release also comes with updates to all of the platform's built-in apps, makes greater use of Microsoft's SkyDrive to make data available across multiple devices, plus a slew of enterprise mobility and security improvements aimed at helping organisations meet the challenges of bring your own device (BYOD) features and improved enterprise support.
20 Sep 2013
The wait is over. After much hype and rumour, Apple’s mid-tier Apple iPhone 5C device is now on the market. However, as V3 found out this morning, the 5C was not on the radar for many Apple fans who had camped out waiting for its latest devices.
But while diehards may only have eyes for the iPhone 5S, others may well be enticed by the device, especially as it represents a lower cost alternative to Apple's new flagship phone. However, it is not exactly a cheap device, with the 32GB version V3 managed to get its hands on costing £549 SIM-free and running on EE's speedy 4G network.
For that price, the device – marketed as “unashamedly plastic” – will have to be seriously impressive to entice buyers.
After the usual setup, the new iOS 7 interface greeted us with its revamped look, and the device was as zippy as you would hope, powered by Apple's own A6 processor, the same chip found in the original iPhone 5.
This means that opening and switching between applications – using the new Windows Phone-style interface – is quick and easy, while applications such as the camera load instantly. However, it will take a full review to see if the device really is as quick and nippy as you ought to expect for a phone costing over £500.
Talking of the camera, Apple has loaded the 5C with an 8MP iSight lens that it claims delivers “startlingly sharp photo quality”. But while the camera is more than adequate for the casual user, compared with some top-end devices – notably the Nokia Lumia 1020 – it’s not up to scratch.
The two images below were taken on the iPhone 5C and a now-ancient iPhone 4. While the upper photo shot on the iPhone 5C is clearly better than the one below (and was correctly identified by all V3 team members as the new 5C) it doesn’t seem supremely better than the iPhone 4.
Above: Taken on an iPhone 5C
Above: The iPhone 4 photo
It is perhaps not surprising that the iPhone 5C camera is nothing more than standard. It will be more than enough for most users – whether loyal Apple fans or first-timers – as it is not meant to be its flagship device. It will be interesting, then, to compare the iPhone 5S to other high-end devices, to see if offers a noticeable improvement.
The iPhone 5C does come with some nice in-built camera functions that mean if you don’t want to use Instagram to add talent to your photos, you don’t have to, as the iPhone has the ability to retro up your snaps natively. It also offers square and panaromic photo formats, if you’re so inclined.
There's no point in skirting around the issue any longer. Yes, as Jony Ive admitted, it is a plastic device. Does it show? Well, yes. It just doesn't feel like an iPhone. It doesn't feel like a premium device. It feels nice, sure, and you still know you have a lovely phone in your hand, but not one that should cost over £500.
For example, tapping on the back of the device gives off a distinctive and offputting rattle, which is not what we've come to expect from Apple over the years.
However, as noted, this doesn't mean it isn't a nice device. It's light, weighing just 132g, and its measurements of 124.4x59.2x8.97mm mean it sits comfortably in the hand, when used in either portrait or landscape mode.
Why did Apple make this device? At this price it doesn't really seem like an effective counter to the mid-tier Android devices dominating the market. Furthermore, while its specifications are below those of the iPhone 5S, it still comes across as a top-end device. But if you are going to buy it, you may as well spend £100 more and get the true flagship, the iPhone 5S.
We'll have an in-depth review after the weekend when we've had a chance to use the device properly, so check back then for our thoughts.